Big 12: Nebraska Cornhuskers

Week 6 playoff implications

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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Claim your spot on the couch now. Reserve your table at your favorite sports bar. Buy another TV. Do whatever you gotta do to make sure you don't miss a snap Saturday because this is going to be a good one.

College football has been a well-kept secret so far, as it has been hiding the true identities of teams. Not this week. It's time to play or go home. There are six games between ranked teams. Of the 17 undefeated teams remaining, eight play against each other this week. It's the most relevant weekend the sport has had in regard to the new College Football Playoff.

Here are the games you can't miss, ranked from least to most likely to affect the playoff:

No. 14 Stanford at No. 9 Notre Dame -- Stanford already has one loss, and this is the second straight road trip for the Cardinal. If Stanford loses again, its playoff hopes will be in serious jeopardy but not over, given that it could still win the conference. This game should reveal more about Notre Dame's place in the playoff, as it will be the first ranked opponent for the Irish.

No. 4 Oklahoma at No. 25 TCU -- ESPN's Football Power Index gives Oklahoma a 64 percent chance to win and predicts this to be Oklahoma's hardest remaining game -- slightly more difficult than Nov. 8 against Baylor. If the Sooners can't handle TCU, they'll be on the outside looking in.

No. 15 LSU at No. 5 Auburn -- LSU gave Auburn its only regular-season loss the past year, but LSU has already lost to Mississippi State, which put the Tigers behind in the SEC West race. Considering the rest of LSU's schedule -- and the hole it's already in -- this is a must-win. For Auburn, this is a chance to erase some doubts and make a push from the bubble into the top four.

No. 6 Texas A&M at No. 12 Mississippi State -- Two terrific quarterbacks will be on display in the Aggies' Kenny Hill and the Bulldogs' Dak Prescott, who both rank in the top 10 in total QBR. A&M's stock dropped a bit this past week after it needed overtime to beat Arkansas, but it could be a top-four team if it can survive the state of Mississippi the next two weeks.

No. 3 Alabama at No. 11 Ole Miss -- This is the most interesting matchup of the day. Alabama ranks third in offensive efficiency, and Ole Miss ranks second in defensive efficiency. Neither team has played a ranked opponent, so there is still some margin for error, but the Tide have a chance to separate from the crowded West.

No. 19 Nebraska at No. 10 Michigan State -- Surprise. The game with the biggest playoff implications is not in the SEC West. This Big Ten matchup could knock Sparty out of the playoff entirely. It's one thing to lose to Oregon; it's another to try to make the four-team playoff with two losses and your best win coming over Nebraska in the Big Ten title game. Conversely, a win in East Lansing could vault the Huskers into the playoff conversation. They're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten, and the toughest game left on their schedule is against No. 17 Wisconsin. If Nebraska pulls off the upset, it's time to take it seriously as a playoff team.
Offensive players dominated the list of top individual seasons at Big 12 schools in ESPN.com’s The Season, with Texas’ Vince Young and Oklahoma State’s Barry Sanders advancing to Wednesday's semifinal round.

Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib is the lone Big 12-era defender who landed on the list as an honorable mention for the Jayhawks. Talib earned consensus All-American honors while helping the Jayhawks go 11-1, including a 24-21 win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl in 2007.

Several Big 12 defenders have had stellar seasons since the conference was born in 1996. Here’s a look at other exceptional individual seasons for defenders during the Big 12 era.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Patrick Green/Icon SMIVon Miller was too much to handle in 2009, posting 17 sacks.
Lawrence Flugence, Texas Tech linebacker, 2002: The sheer numbers land Flugence a spot on this list. He had 193 total tackles, including 124 solo stops in 14 games during the 2002 season. The Mike Leach-led Red Raiders finished 9-5 with Flugence anchoring the defense and Kliff Kingsbury triggering the offense.

Derrick Johnson, Texas linebacker, 2004: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Butkus Award winner, Johnson made plays from sideline to sideline for the Longhorns during the 2004 season. He finished with 130 tackles (70 solo stops), including 19 tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, nine forced fumbles and two sacks.

Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma linebacker, 2007: Lofton was exceptional during the 2007 season, earning All-American and Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. He had 157 tackles including 10.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and three interceptions in 14 games for the Sooners. He was the anchor of a defense that allowed 20.3 points per game and 4.98 yards per play as OU finished 11-2 with a Big 12 championship.

Von Miller, Texas A&M defensive end, 2009: The future NFL Pro Bowler was relentless and dominant during the 2007 season. He finished with 17 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He accounted for 47.2 percent of the Aggies’ sack total (36) during a 6-7 season. His 17 sacks remain the highest single season total in the Big 12 era.

Terence Newman, Kansas State cornerback, 2002: Newman was a nightmare for opponents during the 2002 season, locking down receivers on defense and putting fear into the hearts of defenders on special teams and offense. He won the Thorpe Award and was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Even as offenses avoided him, Newman finished with 44 tackles, 14 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Shaun Rogers, Texas defensive tackle, 1999: The junior was a disruptive force in the middle for the Longhorns, finishing with 27 tackles for loss, the highest total from any Big 12 defender since the conference was born in 1996. He joined teammate Casey Hampton to give UT the Big 12’s top defensive tackle duo that season.

Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska defensive tackle, 2009: The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Suh’s 2009 season was second to none during the Big 12 era. Offenses focused on keeping Suh from dominating games yet he still dominated on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist, Lombardi Award and a lengthy list of individual accolades. He finished with 85 tackles including 24 for loss and 12 sacks.

Earl Thomas, Texas safety, 2009: Thomas proved he was NFL ready with a incredible redshirt sophomore campaign. He was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award while earning all-american honors with 77 tackles, five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups and eight interceptions. He helped UT finish No. 1 nationally in interceptions (35) and forced turnovers (37).

Roy Williams, Oklahoma defensive back, 2001: The Jim Thorpe Award winner, Williams left a lasting legacy with his “Superman” play against Texas in the Red River Rivalry, forcing a Chris Simms’ fumble that sealed an OU win. He finished with 107 tackles including 14 tackles for loss, 22 pass breakups and five interceptions.

Grant Wistrom, Nebraska defensive end, 1997: He had a stellar 1996 season but his 1997 campaign should be considered even better. As the returning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Wistrom had 8.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss and 25 quarterback hurries on his way to Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors for the second straight season. He also earned the Lombardi Trophy in 1997.
So far, it's been an all-Oklahoma semifinal, as the '04 Sooners dispatched '01 Nebraska on Wednesday in our Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff.

SportsNation

Which team should advance to the third round?

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    61%
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    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,964)

Only one more quarterfinal to go. Remember, you vote to decide who advances. Polls close at 10 p.m. CT tonight.

To the matchup:

(2) 2000 OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Record: 13-0

Final ranking: No. 1

Top player: QB Josh Heupel

Consensus All-America: Heupel, LB Rocky Calmus

First-Team All-Big 12: Heupel, Calmus, DT Ryan Fisher, S Roy Williams, S J.T. Thatcher

Second-Team All-Big 12: QB Quentin Griffin, WR Antwone Savage, OT Frank Romero, LB Torrance Marshall, P Jeff Ferguson

Best wins: No. 11 Texas (63-14); at No. 2 Kansas State (41-31); No. 1 Nebraska (31-14); at No. 23 Texas A&M (35-31); No. 8 Kansas State (27-24, Big 12 Championship); No. 3 Florida State (13-2, national championship)

Losses: None

(7) 1999 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Record: 12-1

Final ranking: No. 3

Top player: QB Eric Crouch

Consensus All-America: CB Ralph Brown, S Mike Brown

First-Team All-Big 12: Crouch, Ralph Brown, Mike Brown, C Dominic Raiola, TE Tracey Wistrom, DT Steve Warren, LB Carlos Polk

Second-Team All-Big 12: OG Russ Hochstein, P Dan Hadenfeldt, PR Bobby Newcombe

Best wins: No. 21 Texas A&M (37-0); No. 5 Kansas State (41-15); No. 12 Texas (22-6, Big 12 Championship); No. 6 Tennessee (31-21, Fiesta Bowl)

Losses: at No. 18 Texas (24-20)

***

Who should advance: Bob Stoops has had several more talented teams than his 2000 squad. But that group -- week in, week out -- always found a way to win, no matter the circumstance. The ’00 Sooners will forever hold a special place in the hearts of Sooner Nation because they finally took Oklahoma football back to its former glory after several lean years.

But Nebraska was -- at the least -- the second-best team in the country in 1999, and would have played for the national championship had it not dropped a heartbreaker at Texas. The Cornhuskers avenged that Texas loss with ease in the Big 12 Championship, and drubbed sixth-ranked Tennessee by double digits in the Fiesta Bowl. Nebraska played a much tougher schedule than Virginia Tech, which got thumped by Florida State in the national title game, but there might have been some voter fatigue with the Cornhuskers at that point.

With Crouch operating the option, Nebraska had a powerful running game as well as a dominating defense. It’s hard picking against the ’00 Sooners, who were loaded with gamers. But to keep this from being an all-Oklahoma semifinal, I'm going with the Huskers in a mild upset.

Playoff: Second round glimpse

June, 20, 2014
Jun 20
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The first round of our Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff is done. The opening round featured several surprising -- as well as ridiculous, thanks to you voters -- results. You can click here to see all the results so far, and here to see the original bracket.

We’ll pick back up with the second round on Monday with the 16 seed, ‘07 Missouri, taking on ’03 Oklahoma, the 9 seed.

Here are the rest of next week’s matchups:

Tuesday: ’08 Oklahoma (No. 4 seed) vs. ’10 TCU (No. 12 seed)

Wednesday: ’04 Oklahoma (No. 6 seed) vs. ’01 Nebraska (No. 14 seed)

Thursday: ’99 Nebraska (No. 7 seed) vs. ’00 Oklahoma (No. 2 seed)
Texas and Texas A&M might not be playing one another anytime soon.

But other schools around the league are interested in the prospects of rekindling rivalries that were destroyed by two rounds of conference realignment.

While the Longhorns and Aggies remain at odds, Texas Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt told ESPN.com this week he’s optimistic that he’ll be able to get Texas A&M on the Red Raiders’ schedule down the line again. Hocutt said there has been interest from Texas A&M’s side, as well.

“Hopefully that’s a series that at some point in time that could start again,” Hocutt said. “Is that a game that won’t happen again? No. We’ve had discussions about it. Hopefully we can reengage that in the coming years.”

Oklahoma and Nebraska already have an agreement in place to play a home-and-home in 2021-22. Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has reportedly said he thinks his school will play Kansas again someday.

And West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who has already added Penn State and Virginia Tech to future schedules, told ESPN.com he's hopeful he'll be able to revive the “Backyard Brawl” with Pitt at some point, as well.

“At some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule,” Luck said. “What I’m trying to do with our nonconference games is stay as regional as possible and rekindle some of our historical rivalries. Penn State is back on the schedule. Virginia Tech is back on the schedule. That game meant a lot to southern West Virginians. The Pitt game meant a lot to northern West Virginians. We’ve continued to play Pitt in many of the sports.

“We’ve both gone through transitions, so it’s tough schedule-wise for both of us. But I think at some point we’ll get Pitt back on the schedule. I see [Pitt athletic director] Steve Pederson every now and then at various conventions. And we’ve had some discussions about that. We just haven’t been able to really eyeball the proper time to get it going again.”
The Sooners advanced yet another team through the first round, as ’04 Oklahoma took care of ’08 Texas Tech on Tuesday with 66 percent of the vote in the Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff.

Only two matchups remain in the first round, including ’99 Nebraska vs. ’98 Kansas State in a clash of old Big 12 North rivals. The polls will be open until 10 p.m. Central Time Wednesday.

No. 7 Seed: ’99 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Record: 12-1

Final ranking: No. 3

Top player: QB Eric Crouch

Consensus All-America: CB Ralph Brown, S Mike Brown

First-Team All-Big 12: Crouch, Ralph Brown, Mike Brown, C Dominic Raiola, TE Tracey Wistrom, DT Steve Warren, LB Carlos Polk

SportsNation

Who should advance to the second round?

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    67%
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    33%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,040)

Second-Team All-Big 12: OG Russ Hochstein, P Dan Hadenfeldt, PR Bobby Newcombe

Best wins: No. 21 Texas A&M (37-0); No. 5 Kansas State (41-15); No. 12 Texas (22-6, Big 12 Championship); No. 6 Tennessee (31-21, Fiesta Bowl)

Losses: at No. 18 Texas (24-20)

Why they should advance: Nebraska came within a hair of playing for the 1999 national title, and would have had a good chance of winning it, too.

The Cornhuskers avenged a close loss at Texas earlier in the season -- which kept them out of the national title game -- by coasting past the Longhorns in the Big 12 title.

The Browns (Mike and Ralph) anchored a tenacious Nebraska secondary, and Crouch broke out with a sizzling sophomore season to share Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors with Texas QB Major Applewhite.

No. 10 Seed: ’98 KANSAS STATE WILDCATS

Record: 11-2

Final ranking: No. 10

Top player: QB Michael Bishop

Consensus All-America: Bishop, LB Jeff Kelly, KR David Allen

First-Team All-Big 12: Bishop, Kelly, Allen, WR Darnell McDonald, OT Ryan Young, DE Darren Howard, S Jarrod Cooper, S Lamar Chapman, K Martin Gramatica

Second-Team All-Big 12: DT Damion McIntosh, LB Mark Simoneau

Best wins: at No. 14 Colorado (16-9); No. 11 Nebraska (40-30); at No. 19 Missouri (31-25)

Losses: No. 10 Texas A&M (36-33, Big 12 Championship); Purdue (37-34, Alamo Bowl)

Why they should advance: Kansas State has featured plenty of great teams since the “Manhattan Miracle,” but this was coach Bill Snyder’s best squad.

The ’98 Wildcats finally got over the Nebraska hump, putting them one game away from playing in the national championship. Instead, Texas A&M upset K-State in double overtime, knocking the Wildcats all the way down to the Alamo Bowl, where the hangover continued in an uninspired loss to unranked Purdue.

Still, any team a double overtime away from playing in the national championship should be considered formidable. And this team, led by the Heisman runner-up in Bishop, was most definitely that.

***

Who I would vote for: There’s a strong case to be made for either side here. Both teams just missed out on the national title game, due to heartbreaking losses (Nebraska at Texas, Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship). But when two sides are so close, I tend to look at the quarterbacks. Crouch would go on to win the Heisman two years after quarterbacking the ’99 Huskers. But Bishop almost won it in ’98, finishing second to Texas’ Ricky Williams in the voting. He had a spectacular final season in Manhattan, throwing for 2,844 yards and 23 touchdowns to just five interceptions during a time when high-volume passing was still not en vogue. Because of Bishop, I would have given the edge to the Wildcats in this coin-flip matchup.

Coming up Thursday: (2 seed) 2000 Oklahoma vs. (15 seed) 2012 Kansas State
SportsNation

Who should advance to the second round?

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    42%
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    58%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,034)

In the opening week of the Big 12 BCS-era 16-team playoff, ’07 Missouri, ’03 Oklahoma, ’08 Oklahoma and ’10 TCU advanced to the second round by compiling more SportsNation votes than their first opponents (to see the bracket again click here).

The first round of the playoff continues Monday with a pair of teams that made national championship games in ’01 Nebraska and ’09 Texas. Remember, voting will be open until 10 p.m. Central time Monday.

Now, to the matchup:

No. 3 Seed: ’09 TEXAS LONGHORNS

Record: 13-1

Final ranking: No. 2

Top player: QB Colt McCoy

Consensus All-America: McCoy, WR Jordan Shipley, S Earl Thomas

First-Team All-Big 12: McCoy, Shipley, Thomas

Second-Team All-Big 12: C Chris Hall, OT Adam Ulatoski, DE Sergio Kindle, LB Roddrick Muckelroy

Best wins: No. 20 Oklahoma (16-13); at No. 13 Oklahoma State (41-14); No. 21 Nebraska (13-12, Big 12 Championship)

Losses: No. 1 Alabama (37-21, BCS Championship)

Why they should advance: McCoy didn’t have quite the year he did the season before, but the Longhorns still featured one of the crispest passing games in the country.

The defense in ’09 was sharper too, led by Thomas, who became a star as a third-year sophomore.

Had McCoy not injured his shoulder in the first quarter against Alabama, who knows, Texas might have won the national title.

No. 14 Seed: ’01 NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Record: 11-2

Final ranking: No. 8

Top player: QB Eric Crouch

Consensus All-America: Crouch

First-Team All-Big 12: Crouch, OG Toniu Fonoti, CB Keyuo Craver

Second-Team All-Big 12: RB Dahrran Diedrick, OT Dave Volk, LB Chris Kelsay

Best wins: No. 17 Notre Dame (27-10); No. 2 Oklahoma (20-10)

Losses: at No. 14 Colorado (62-36); No. 1 Miami (37-14, national championship)

Why they should advance: Like the ’03 Sooners, the ’01 Cornhuskers are mostly remembered for how they finished the season.

But Nebraska was dominant through the first 11 games. Up to the Colorado game, the Huskers won every game on their schedule by at least double digits, including a 20-10 victory over second-ranked and defending national champ Oklahoma.

Crouch narrowly captured the Heisman, rushing for 1,115 yards and 18 touchdowns operating out the option.

***

Who I would vote for: The ’09 Longhorns lost in the national title game. But at least they belonged in the game. The same can hardly be said of the ’01 Cornhuskers, who didn’t even win the Big 12 North Division.

This would have been a compelling contrast of styles with McCoy and Crouch, who probably had the two best four-year careers of any Big 12 quarterback. But McCoy had the better supporting cast, and as a result, would be my pick to move on.

Coming up Tuesday: (6 seed) 2004 Oklahoma vs. (11 seed) 2008 Texas Tech

Our Big 12 Mount Rushmore

February, 19, 2014
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LeBron James controversially put, of all things, Mount Rushmore in the news last week by suggesting he would be etched in stone one day among the four best in NBA history.

The James story set off a firestorm of other sports-related Rushmores. NFL Rushmores. IndyCar Rushmores. One site even put together its Mount Rushmore of Pro Bass Fishermen.

Not to be outdone, Brandon and I have put together a Mount Rushmore of Big 12 football players.

For those who slept through social studies, the actual Mount Rushmore includes the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The four were chosen not only because they were famous presidents. They were chosen because they were transformational figures in American history.

Washington won the Revolutionary War. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln freed the slaves. Roosevelt changed American diplomacy.

In keeping with the spirit of the real Mount Rushmore, our Big 12 Rushmore wasn’t just about picking the four best players. It was about picking transformational figures whose impact was far-reaching. And it's just from the Big 12 era (1996-present).

Without further ado, the Big 12 football Mount Rushmore:

Texas QB Vince Young

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesVince Young led Texas to its first national championship in 35 years.
Before 2005, Texas was a great program. But it was not an elite one. It had been 35 years since the Longhorns had won a national championship. By contrast, Oklahoma had captured four national titles during that span. Even though coach Mack Brown had turned the Texas program around, the Sooners were still beating in the Longhorns’ heads on the field.

That all changed in 2005, thanks to one of the greatest individual seasons in college football history. Young put the Longhorns on his back, and took them all the way to Pasadena, Calif. The Longhorns destroyed everyone, including the Sooners, with Ohio State being the only regular-season opponent to play Texas within 10 points.

Young was even more spectacular in the national title game against USC. The mighty Trojans had no answer for Young, who threw for 267 yards and rushed for 200. And in the closing seconds on fourth down, he dashed past the pylon for the game-winning touchdown.

Young didn’t win the Heisman Trophy (he should have), but he became the first FBS quarterback to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season. He also finally lifted Texas over the hump, taking the Longhorns from great to elite.

Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson

Just this month, Oklahoma signed one of the best running backs in the country in California native Joe Mixon. Who is Mixon’s idol? Peterson. Who knows how many recruits the Sooners were able to sign the last decade because of Peterson. The number is substantial.

Peterson arrived in 2004 as the Sooners’ most ballyhooed recruit since Marcus Dupree. Texas wanted Peterson badly. And Peterson actually watched the 2003 Red River Rivalry from the Texas sidelines. But even though Peterson dreamed of playing for the Longhorns growing up, he wanted to win more. Peterson’s signing with Oklahoma added insult to injury to its cross-river rival.

After getting to campus, Peterson put together one of the best freshman seasons ever. He rushed for 1,925 yards, leading the Sooners to the national title game. He also finished second in the Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma against voting for freshmen.

The next two years of Peterson’s career were marred by injuries (even though he still finished with 4,041 career rushing yards). When healthy, he was the single-most dominant force in Big 12 history.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin III

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Sarah Glenn/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy and put Baylor back on the map.
Along with his coach Art Briles, Griffin changed the way people thought about Baylor football. He also changed the way Baylor football thought about itself. Before Griffin followed Briles to Waco in 2008, Baylor football was the laughingstock of the Big 12.

The Bears had not enjoyed a single winning season since before the inception of the league, and had lost 85 of 96 Big 12 games. The facilities were a mess and attendance was so poor, the school rolled a tarp over Floyd Casey Stadium's south end zone bleachers.

But by the time Griffin left, the program had been transformed. He brought the school its first Heisman Trophy and just its second 10-win season.

Griffin’s effect can still be felt in the Big 12. His magical season spurred Baylor to secure the funding for an on-campus, $260-million stadium that will open this fall. The Bears have also been a force ever since, both on the field and on the recruiting trail. In the last three months, Baylor captured its first Big 12 title, then nailed down a top-25 recruiting class. Until Griffin came along, that would have been unthinkable in Waco. It’s now the standard.

Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh

There have been some great defensive players to come through the Big 12. None come close to matching Suh, who was one of the most menacing defensive tackles to ever play college football.

In 2009, Suh captured the Outland, Nagurski and Bednarik national awards as the nation’s most outstanding lineman and defensive player. He also became the first defensive Heisman finalist since Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

Spearheaded by Suh, Nebraska also fielded perhaps the greatest defense in Big 12 history. Despite playing in an era of high-flying offenses, the Huskers gave up just 10.4 points per game, the fewest any defense has allowed in Big 12 history.

Facing off against the Big 12’s best offense in the Big 12 championship, Suh and the Huskers imposed their will, and came a controversial call away from toppling the Longhorns. Texas went on to the national championship game, and Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy still finished one spot higher in the Heisman voting than Suh. But in that game, like every other one he played in that season, Suh was the best player on the field.
With the BCS era ending, we released the Big 12 all-BCS-era team this morning. ESPN.com also put together a national all-BCS-era team, and four Big 12 alums made that illustrious squad:
  • RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Nicknamed "A.D." because he could run "All Day," Peterson set an FBS freshman record with 1,925 rushing yards while finishing second to Matt Leinart in the '04 Heisman voting. Injuries plagued his next two seasons, but he still was a force and rushed for more than 1,000 yards to finish with 4,041 career rushing yards and 41 touchdowns before turning pro early.
  • WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon joined Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree as the only receiver to win the Biletnikoff twice. In those two seasons, Blackmon put up 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns. Blackmon gets the slight nod over Crabtree, because Oklahoma State won its first Big 12 title with Blackmon at wideout, while the Red Raiders came up just short with Crabtree.
  • DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive tackle during the BCS era than Suh. After registering 12 tackles and 24 tackles for loss, he placed fourth in the Heisman voting in '09, and won a host of national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski and Bednarik. Suh too went on to become the second overall pick in the draft.
  • S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-01) -- Williams was a major part of Oklahoma's revival at the turn of the millennium. He was one of the Sooners' best players on the 2000 national championship team, before winning the Thorpe and Nagurski awards in '01. That year, he also was the Big 12 defensive player of the year and a unanimous All-American while placing seventh in the Heisman voting.

Big 12 all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
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After 16 years, the BCS era is finally over. Next season, college football will have a playoff instead.

With the BCS done, we've come up with our Big 12 all-BCS era team (1998-2013) below:

Offense

[+] EnlargeVince Young
Scott Clarke/Getty ImagesWith Vince Young at the helm, Texas won a national title and Rose Bowl.
QB: Vince Young, Texas (2003-05) -- Young led Texas to its first national title in 35 years with an unforgettable performance in the Rose Bowl against USC. The Heisman runner-up also became the first QB in college football history to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same season.

RB: Ricky Williams, Texas (1998) -- Williams was part of the BCS era for only one season, but what a season it was. He rushed for 2,327 yards and won the Heisman Trophy going away. Only Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne has more career rushing yards than Williams (6,279).

RB: Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (2004-06) -- Despite battling injuries throughout his career, Peterson still was a beast in college. After rushing for 1,925 yards while leading the Sooners to the national title game, he finished second in the ’04 Heisman voting, even though there was still a stigma then in voting for a freshman.

WR: Michael Crabtree, Texas Tech (2007-08) -- Crabtree became the first two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top receiver. In '08, he and QB Graham Harrell led the Red Raiders to an upset of Texas and a No. 2 ranking in the polls.

WR: Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (2009-11) -- Blackmon became the second and only other two-time winner of the Biletnikoff. In his final two seasons, he finished with 233 receptions, 3,304 receiving yards and 38 touchdowns, and he helped propel the Cowboys to their first Big 12 title in '11.

TE: Chase Coffman, Missouri (2005-08) -- Coffman had a monster statistical college career for a tight end with 247 catches for 2,659 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He won the ’08 Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end. Missouri won 37 games during the four years Coffman was in the lineup.

OT: Jammal Brown, Oklahoma (2001-04) -- Brown was a unanimous All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. He became the fifth Sooner to win the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top interior lineman.

OT: Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (2007-09) -- In Okung’s final two seasons, Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in rushing yards. The Cowboys were also third in the country in ’07 in fewest sacks allowed with Okung at left tackle. He was a unanimous All-American and Outland finalist in ’09 and became the sixth overall pick in the ’10 NFL draft.

OG: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (2010-13) -- Richardson became Baylor’s seventh all-time unanimous All-American. The Outland finalist was also a key piece on the nation’s highest-scoring offense this season.

OG: Justin Blalock, Texas (2003-06) -- Though a guard in the NFL, Blalock actually started 50 games for Texas, most coming at right tackle. He was a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection and a consensus All-American in 2006.

C: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- Raiola was the inaugural winner of the Rimington Award, named after former Nebraska center Dave Rimington, which recognizes the best center in college football. He was an Outland finalist and a consensus All-American.

APB: Darren Sproles, Kansas State (2001-04) -- One of the most prolific all-purpose performers in college football history, Sproles finished his career with 6,812 all-purpose yards. Among his 39 consecutive starts, his most memorable performance came in the ’03 Big 12 championship, when he had 235 yards rushing and 88 receiving, as K-State upset top-ranked Oklahoma 35-7.

Defense

DE: Brian Orakpo, Texas (2005-08) -- Orakpo captured the ’08 Nagurski Award as the most outstanding defensive player in the country, and the Lombardi Award, given to the best college lineman or linebacker. He also was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a consensus All-American while piling up 11 sacks his senior year.

DE: Von Miller, Texas A&M (2007-10) -- Out of a hybrid defensive end/linebacker role, Miller led the nation with 17 sacks in ’09. He was a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award in ’10 as the nation’s top linebacker.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- There was no more dominant defensive player in college football during the BCS era. Suh finished fourth in the Heisman voting in ’09 and won several national awards, including the Outland, Lombardi, Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)and Bednarik (defensive player of the year). He was also a unanimous All-American and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

DT: Tommie Harris, Oklahoma (2001-03) -- Harris was a force from the beginning as a freshman on the OU defensive line. He won the Lombardi his junior year, and he was a two-time consensus All-American, garnering unanimous honors in ’03.

LB: Derrick Johnson, Texas (2001-04) -- Johnson was a menacing linebacker for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors in ’03 and unanimous honors in ’04. He was also a three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and won the Butkus (best linebacker) and Nagurski awards as a senior. Johnson finished his career with 458 tackles.

LB: Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma (1998-2001) -- Calmus played a major role in OU’s resurgence under Bob Stoops. He won the Butkus in ’01 and was a finalist for the Nagurski and Bednarik. A three-time All-Big 12 pick, Calmus led the Sooners in tackles in all three of those seasons.

LB: Teddy Lehman, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- Lehman too won the Butkus, beating out Johnson for the award in ’03. He also was Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, captured the Bednarik, was a unanimous All-American and played in two national championship games.

[+] EnlargeTavon Austin
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesWest Virginia receiver and returner Tavon Austin had a huge 2012 season.
CB: Terence Newman, Kansas State (1999-2002) -- Newman was a solid player for Bill Snyder his first three seasons, then broke out as a senior. Newman was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and the Thorpe winner, given to college football’s top defensive back.

CB: Derrick Strait, Oklahoma (2000-03) -- A four-year starter, Strait finished with a school-record 52 career pass breakups. He also won the Thorpe, and was a unanimous All-American.

S: Roy Williams, Oklahoma (1999-2001) -- Nicknamed “Superman,” Williams was the Big 12’s most dominating defensive player until Suh came along. He won the Thorpe and Nagurski in ’01, and was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American the same season. He also famously skied over the Texas offensive line to force the game-clinching interception to earn his moniker.

S: Michael Huff, Texas (2002-05) -- Huff became the first Longhorn to win the Thorpe, and was the leader of the ’05 national championship defense. He was also a unanimous All-American that season.

Special teams

K: Mason Crosby, Colorado (2003-06) -- Crosby was three-time, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and twice was a consensus All-American even though he never won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's top kicker. He was also the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a junior, and converted 66 field goals in his career.

P: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State (2009-12) -- Sharp became the first three-time All-American in Oklahoma State history, and he earned All-American honors both as a punter and a kicker. He was twice named the Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year. In his career, he made 50 of 59 field goals, averaged 45.9 yards per punt and missed only one extra point.

KR: Tavon Austin, West Virginia (2012) -- Austin was in the Big 12 only one season, but he was unstoppable that one season. On top of being one of the most dangerous kick returners in the country, Austin had 1,289 yards receiving and 643 rushing, and finished second in the country in all-purpose yards.

PR: Ryan Broyles Oklahoma (2008-11) -- On top of being a prolific punt returner, Broyles was one of the most efficient receivers in college football history. He finished his career with an FBS-record 349 receptions, and was a two-time consensus All-American before a knee injury cut his senior season short.

The Early Offer: Juco hits, misses 

September, 17, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: We take a look back at how the nation’s top three junior college players from the Class of 2013 have transitioned into their roles at Ole Miss, Nebraska and Kansas.

Big 12 recruiting mailbag

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
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Time to open up the mailbag and answer some questions about recruiting in the Big 12.

From Judd Blevins on Twitter: Possibility of Oklahoma getting 2 more RBs in Joe Mixon and Nathan Starks are…?

William Wilkerson: Surprisingly decent. Not to say OU can’t pull two running backs of this caliber. It most certainly can. It’s just rare for two players as good as they are to end up in the same recruiting class, especially with ESPN 300 RB Samaje Perine (Pflugerville, Texas/Hendrickson) already on board with Bob Stoops’ program.

It’s long been thought that Mixon would stay on the west coast and play for either USC or UCLA, but that sentiment seems to have shifted and OU is a big reason why. He will officially visit the Sooners on Oct. 4.

As for Starks, it is no secret that he has long admired OU for its ability to recruit out-of-state backs but also make them into NFL talent. He currently has the Sooners in his top three along with Notre Dame and USC.

From James Robinson on Twitter: Are there any high school TEs Texas will pursue in the 2014 or 2015 classes?

WW: There are. Right now, Texas has offered ESPN 300 TE Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, CA/La Mirada) and is trying to get him on campus for a visit. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound TE is the top at his position in the country. So interest is high from everyone but he has expressed the desire to get to Austin at some point.

As for 2015, the Longhorns have offered ESPN Junior 300 TE Jordan Davis (Houston/Clear Lake). But it doesn’t look like that will lead to anything. Davis originally committed to Florida State but has since switched his verbal pledge to Texas A&M.

Texas has gone to the junior college ranks for the second year in a row to pick up a tight end. John Thomas (Trinity Valley CC), who was originally committed to LSU out of high school, gave his verbal pledge in June.

From Gold n Blue Nation on Twitter: Dravon Henry seems to be down to Penn St. and WVU with Pitt running third. What is your prediction?

WW: This could go any way at this point. I think he’ll eventually stay close to home and stick with Penn State. But that could change, especially given that the Nittany Lions already have commitments from two safeties and two cornerbacks in 2014. That’s definitely an angle that I would be selling to Henry if I were WVU’s staff, who only has one defensive back commitment in junior college cornerback Jaylon Myers. Pitt and Aliquippa have a long and prosperous history together so you can’t count out the Panthers. The key here could be where teammate Jaleel Fields lands. Pitt and WVU seem to be the front-runners for him.

From Jason Mitchum on Twitter: Do you see Peyton Newell staying in-state?

WW: I think he’ll end up with Bo Pelini. Mitchum visited the Cornhuskers on June 15 for Big Red Weekend, which really seemed to cement things in the minds of many. For what it’s worth, Kansas and Kansas State are amongst his finalists, which he will choose from at his school on Aug. 30.

From Jacob Ledo on Twitter: Update on Kevin Shorter?

WW: Things are getting really interesting here. It looked like Arkansas and Texas A&M were going to go head-to-head for his commitment, but Texas is squarely in the mix now. He’s visited the Longhorns twice within the last two weeks so there is obvious interest there. The fact that he has pushed his college decision back because he needs more time doesn’t bode well for the two original contenders. The Longhorns need another running back and are selling him on the idea of being that vertical threat out of the backfield. Larry Porter has done an incredible job with getting Texas in the mix.
The folks at Pollspeak are your go-to source for breaking down the college football polls, and they released their comprehensive list of which teams have been overrated and underrated most by preseason polls over the past five seasons.

Their metric is simple: The preseason ranking and final AP ranking are compared, and the final total is added up over five years, whether it be positive or negative.

Oklahoma checks in as the No. 1 most overrated team in college football in the past five years, with a total of minus-49 in the polls from 2008-12. There wasn't really any competition for the Sooners, who were 13 points ahead of the No. 2 team, USC, and 22 points ahead of No. 3, Georgia.

Only in 2010 did Oklahoma finish higher (No. 6) than it began (No. 7), and had two seasons, 2011 and 2009 where it finished at least 15 spots lower than it began.

West Virginia was the nation's sixth most overrated team, finishing with a minus-23 mark. That's mostly thanks to 2012 and 2008, when it began the season at No. 11 and finished outside of the polls.

Texas was No. 9 nationally, with a mark of minus-18, mostly because it began the 2010 season at No. 5 and finished outside the polls for a mark of minus-21 alone. The Longhorns were picked 15th last season and finished 19th, and began and ended outside of the polls in 2011.

Believe it or not, Kansas finished at No. 11 on the most overrated list, thanks to a fall from 14th to out of the polls in the 2008 season.

That shows something of a flaw in the pure "overrated" label, but I like the metric.

The most underrated teams?

Put another feather in your cap, K-State fans, but not before tipping that cap to TCU. The Wildcats are the nation's seventh-most underrated team with a mark of plus-21 in the polls over the past five years, but the Frogs took home the Big 12 title in that category. They were plus-28 and finished tied for second, well behind Stanford, at plus-36.

Here's how the whole Big 12 sorted out, including former and new Big 12 members.
  • TCU: +28
  • Kansas State: +21
  • Baylor: +13
  • Texas A&M: +10
  • Texas Tech: +5
  • Oklahoma State: +5
  • Missouri: -10
  • Kansas: -13
  • Texas: -18
  • West Virginia: -23
  • Nebraska: -24
  • Oklahoma: -49

Good stuff. Note: Iowa State hasn't began or ended a season in the AP poll the past five years, so they weren't factored into Pollspeak's results. The same is true of former Big 12 member Colorado.
Did you hear that on Monday? The sweet sound of silence? Not a single goodbye or hello for a conference that's gotten used to those over the past three years.

The ACC held a special celebration in New York City to welcome Pitt and Syracuse, while the old Big East officially died and gave birth to The American, an aptly named league stretching from Connecticut to SMU in Dallas, though San Diego State and Boise State bailed before the doors were open.

Around the Big 12, though? July 1 was exactly what it's supposed to be: The beginning of a holiday-shortened week with no real news to fill the no-man's land of early July in college sports. That's a welcome development for the Big 12, which hasn't enjoyed that kind of quiet in July since all the way back in 2009.

In 2010, Nebraska had already announced plans to leave for the Big Ten and Colorado for the Pac-12, leading to an awkward Big 12 Media Days in late July and an even more awkward farewell season. July 1, 2011 was the day the Huskers and Buffaloes were officially gone. Later that month, the Big 12 members played nice and put on an, uh, interesting show at Media Days while working on a grant of rights deal.

Before conference play even heated up, Missouri and Texas A&M were gone, leaving the Big 12 to hand out invites to TCU and West Virginia. The moves became official on July 1, 2012.

Which leaves us to this week. The Big 12 sees itself in a position of strength after signing a 13-year grant of rights deal, and the ACC signing a similar deal took attractive options like Florida State, Clemson or Louisville mostly off the Big 12's radar.

At Big 12 meetings in Dallas last month, every league administrator I talked to couldn't help but smile at how little (which is to say, almost nil) conversation centered around expansion. That was a new development for the Big 12, which has been largely centered on the issue for the past three years.

The Big 12 can't replace the tradition, proximity and quality that programs like Nebraska, Texas A&M, Missouri and Colorado left behind, but handed out $22 million to members this year and the league's meeting table is as cordial as it's ever been.

There's no denying the Big 12 suffered major losses in realignment and now sits with a name that doesn't match its membership. Still, for a conference a few steps away from death on two occasions, stability, big money and success on the field (90 percent of the league qualifying for a bowl in 2012 was the highest in CFB history) have changed the perception of a conference most viewed as doing little more than stalling on its deathbed.

TCU and West Virginia relished lifesavers out of a dying Big East and for TCU, a reunion with old Southwest Conference rivals. It was a rough first year for both programs, but the Big 12 is unlikely to add any members any time soon as college football exits the BCS era and enters the playoff era.

Travel issues have provided hiccups for the Mountaineers, and a leaky defense showed the transition would look a lot different than it did in WVU's dreams. A drug scandal at TCU wasn't a good look for the newcomers, and quarterback Casey Pachall's off-field troubles assured the Frogs a disappointing debut.

It wasn't perfect, but it worked. Those problems were microscopic compared to the major fractures that led to four members' departures. Those departures were major blows for the Big 12, but it survived, and this July, enjoyed the tranquility of a league with good football, big money and the knowledge of who'll be in its league for the foreseeable future.

That's a plot pretty close to the Big 12's best-case scenario for a league that lost four founding members in two years.
We're in the middle of counting down the top 10 players in the history of the Big 12. I'm sure you'll all agree with my selections.

See more on my criteria here.

Let's move on with the list:

No. 3: Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska (2005-09)

Why he's on the list: Suh's career had modest beginnings, and coach Bo Pelini famously almost told the Oregon native to take a hike when he took over the Huskers job before the 2008 season. Instead, Suh bought in and became the Big 12's most decorated and best defender ever in two years as a starter. We're not taking his NFL career into account, but colleague Mel Kiper called Suh the most dominating defensive tackle in college football he'd seen in 32 years. Suh's greatest achievement was becoming a Heisman finalist as a defensive tackle in 2009, and I've always believed he should have won the award ahead of Alabama's Mark Ingram, who was arguably the second-best running back on that Alabama team that won the national title. Suh was simply the most dominant player in college football that season, impacting every game he played and just about every snap.

Do you know how hard it is to lead a team in tackles as a defensive tackle? Suh did it twice. He had 43 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in two seasons as a starter. In 2009, he collected an absurd amount of hardware: He was the Big 12's Defensive Player of the Year and he won the Lombardi Award, the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award. He was also a unanimous All-American and a finalist for the Camp Award as college football's best player. Nebraska's defense in 2009 was one of the best in Big 12 history, and the team fell just short of the Big 12 title. That's not Suh's fault. His performance against a big-time Texas offense in the title game was one of the best I've ever seen. Against the Longhorns, led by senior quarterback Colt McCoy (No. 5 on our list of top Big 12 players), he made 12 tackles and 4.5 sacks, racking up a school record seven tackles for loss. He was everywhere, and it seemed like he was in McCoy's face on every snap.

All season long, Suh was unblockable. Only two players are blocking him from being the greatest Big 12 player of all-time.

The rest of the list:

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